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If you're considering buying a long-term care policy, be sure to do your homework first.
A long-term policy is supposed to pay for in-home, assisted living or nursing home care. Typically, benefits will be triggered by diminished mental ability, as with Alzheimer's, or if you can't perform activities of daily living: walking, dressing, bathing or eating, for instance. Many insurers spell out a list of activities; you must be unable to do a certain number of them for benefits to kick in.
The cost of premiums depends on the insurer, as well as the policy's provisions. Some provisions will affect your price more than others. They're listed here in rough order of their impact:
Age. A married 55-year-old person in good health will pay an average annual premium of $1,027 for a policy with benefits of up to $150 a day for three years, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. When you turn 65, the premium jumps to $1,939. (Most policies are unisex). Typically, you can't get a long-term policy after age 79.
Daily benefit. A policy that pays $100 a day costs less than one that pays $200 a day.
Length of benefit. You can buy policies that pay for one year, three years — or as long as you need them. The longer the benefit, the more you pay.
Waiting period. A policy that kicks in as soon as you need it will cost more than one that won't start until you've paid for 30, 60 or 90 days of long-term care yourself.
Health. If you're in good health, you can often get a discount. If you're not, you may not be able to get long-term insurance at all.
Features. Many policies offer an inflation feature; your benefits will be adjusted up for inflation every year. Typically, a policy whose inflation feature is linked to the consumer price index is cheaper than one that awards a flat 5% inflation boost to benefits each year. If you're worried about cost, opt for a policy that pays out for three years. The odds are good you won't need more than three years. A recent study found that just 8% of claimants with three-year payout policies exhausted their benefits, says the long-term care association.
Similarly, you might opt for lower daily payouts. That's because you might be able to count on Social Security, or your own savings, to make up the gap.
Your choice of coverage should depend on a variety of factors, says Joseph Matthews, author of Long-term Care: How to Plan and Pay for It. If Alzheimer's runs in your family, consider opting for unlimited benefits. Here are Matthews' main tips for buying long-term care insurance:
Buy from an established national company with financial strength. You can obtain ratings for most insurance companies from A.M. Best, an insurance evaluator: www.ambest.com. Remember: You're buying a policy you may not need to use until 2020 or beyond; you want the insurer to stick around.
Look for flexibility. Make sure your policy will pay for home health care, nursing home care, or even respite care, which gives caregivers a break. Also be sure the policy will cover Alzheimer's and other long-term cognitive disorders.
Buy the inflation rider. A payout of $100 a day would be worth only $76 a day after 10 years of 3% annual inflation.
Shop around. Insurers have the right to change premiums. Don't just look for the lowest initial premiums. Insurers with low prices now might raise rates later.
Should you buy long-term care insurance? It depends. The odds of spending many years in a nursing home are fairly low if you're in good health and have no family history of Alzheimer's or stroke. But if you fear being a burden to your family, or if you don't want to wind up in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, you might consider a long-term care policy.
First things first. "There's no sense in buying long-term care insurance if you're not paying your bills or funding your retirement," says Gregory French, an elder law attorney in Cincinnati.
Statistics show that at least 6.4 million people aged 65 or older need long-term care, with one in two over age 85 requiring care. At least half of the population who are 85+ will need help with Activities of Daily Living.* Such care is provided when someone can no longer independently carry out essential everyday activities like eating, bathing, dressing, etc. Most people think of long-term care as something needed by older people, but accident or illness can strike someone of any age. When it does, they too may find themselves in need of assistance.
Traditionally, women in our families have provided this care when needed. However, today’s smaller families may be scattered across the country, and many women are now working outside the home. What’s more, caring for a loved one full-time can overwhelm even the most devoted family member. As a result, more caregivers than ever are turning to outside resources to help with the care of a family member.
Many people automatically think of nursing homes when they think of long-term care, but there are other options available as well, some provided in your own home or others in the community. This pamphlet* explains some of these long-term care arrangements, what they cost and how to shop for a long-term care insurance policy to help cover such expenses.
*Planning for Long-Term Care
United Seniors Health Council, Washington, D.C., McGraw-Hill, NY, 2002
Long-term care is so expensive that many people risk losing their life savings within a year of having such care. A year in a nursing home can cost from $40,000 to $80,000*, depending on the area of the country. Even a temporary stay in a nursing home can derail years of careful financial planning.
Insurance experts estimate that about one-third of all long-term care services are paid for by individuals out of their own savings or investments. The funds may come from pension plans, employee stock ownership plans, single premium annuities, the cash value of life insurance or savings.
Check out Long-Term Care Quote (www.ltcq.net) an independent agency specializing in long-term care insurance. Long-Term Care Quote will find the best long-term care policy and premiums for you or your family from a choice of top-rated insurance companies. There is no cost or obligation to use this service..
Make sure the insurer is a stable, reliable insurance company. Rating services can help you do this, like:
The amount of the benefit and the time that elapses between when you are medically certified to need it, your age at the time you purchase the insurance and when the benefit actually begins have a great deal to do with determining the amount of your premium.
Check to see if there a maximum dollar amount the insurance will pay out and how long will you be covered? The length of coverage also determines the cost of the insurance.
Is there a difference between being admitted to a nursing home and staying at home with a registered caregiver? Who determines if you are able to receive benefits? Your physician? The insurance company?
Order the free Life Advice® guide about Long-Term Care produced by the MetLife Consumer Education Center with assistance from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Center for the Study of Aging and Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA).
Go to what is the cost of long term care
Under paying for long-term care check out cost of care
Click on studies and then go to 2009 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing home and Home Care costs
Go to For Producers link and check under cost by state calculator